Darkroom Readings: Scenes of Maternal Photography

Elissa Marder

in The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780823240555
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823240593 | DOI:
Darkroom Readings: Scenes of Maternal Photography

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This chapter examines Roland Barthes' gloss on Charles Clifford's nineteenth-century photograph “Alhambra” in Camera Lucida and explores how, via this image, Barthes conjures up an alternative model of temporality that he calls “utopian time” and which he associates with a return to the body of the mother. Following Barthes' photographic response to this image, it explores what happens when photography loosens its grasp on its various referential conscious powers: (to know, to prove, to document) and gives itself over instead to become a form of writing. As writing, photography calls for a mode of reading (of events, texts, and the world) that is neither conscious nor unconscious as conventionally understood. In this sense, photographic writing operates at the very limits of what can be imagined as “visible” or even “possible.” The final section of the chapter engages in a reading of some recent fictions by Hélène Cixous to show how, in the photographic images of déjà vu that come to us in dreams and in writing, we might by chance discover latent traces of as yet unwritten future histories.

Keywords: Roland Barthes; Camera Lucida; Jacques Derrida; Hélène Cixous; photography; maternal body; The Uncanny; déjà vu; utopian time; Alhambra

Chapter.  13139 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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